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If Walls Could Vote, Democracy Would Still Win

By Lisa Saye
March 11, 2024

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

Democracy is the answer to the recurring question of what government looks like when equal representation and equal justice are the rule of the day. Democracy is the practical response to honesty. It is experience, a unique picture of society’s arrangement with itself. In a democracy, voting is the same thing as a witness statement. Voting is a prominent marker of democracy. It is a collective, political Brownian Motion where more voters impact more elections, but do so a whole lot less randomly.

The fact that democracy has been around so long shows its hesitancy to leave us. But, what does real democracy look like? Well, when it is real, it is awe-inspiring. It dismantles any structural inequity, be it temporary or otherwise. Democracy is not episodic. It is continuous improvement and inclusion. For democracy, there is no final frontier, only the next frontier. We are always growing, constantly expanding and always in need of a policy to capture life’s changes and unexpected issues. So, for this, political abbreviation is not possible. Democracy cannot be hijacked because it will put up a rigorous fight. Its defensive measures include centuries of victories, the concept of inclusive participation, free and selected representation and equal justice.

Public administration may be many things, but it is not a market strategy. It does, however, prefer a stable economy for easier management. The administration of government is not stage management nor is it a patch program for the holes in government. Public administration is a social commitment of a social conversation between government and the people. Public servants give away everything they have to ensure the promises of government through the foundation of the shared social commitment. Democracy is government’s timbers and public service is its fume, its fire. A democracy’s nourishment comes from fair, effective and efficient public administration. Stunt democracies don’t understand this because they’re filled with the murky intentions of individuals who are not serious about people, policies or programs. 

Policy implementation is not the result of a playdate for curiosity seekers. Policy in a democracy is structured to distinguish the recreational from the authentic. Inauthenticity in policy is indefensible and forfeits the public administrator’s right to rule, the right to judge and the right to lead. An authentic policy reconnects the notion of the social commitment citizens expect within the administration of government. Any changes in authenticity mute the social conversation between government and the people whether they happen in Paris, in Juba or in the City of Washington. 

A good cultural historian can summarize the phases of democracy in a matter of minutes. That summary will no doubt include a hasty survey of the benefits of public service on citizen trust and government support. A global ancestry shared by all of us is the search for peace, government accountability and order and good public service. To be sure, public service cannot withstand the brief windows of chaos and threats to dismantle it that have been levied towards it as of late. Public service should never be vulnerable in a real democracy. Our first goal as public administrators has to be to ensure that it never is. That means delivering a shield of service that is refortified each time it is tested, battered or challenged. 

The laws of physics state that enough wind can push anything over a wall. Democracy is a swell that can only grow with society’s permission and support. In moving towards democracy and in case the wall getting there is too high, go around it. You won’t be the first to do so, nor will you be the last to try. A wall amidst the lawlessness of ill-tempered emotions screams no further. But, what are walls to those without tent or castle? 

It may be time to remind the world that democracy is still a practice and that practice still makes perfect. Public service is the greatest contribution that a free democracy can make to its citizenry. And while democracy has its flaws, its implications for inclusion and progress are infinite. Public service operates within the ever-growing rooms of democracy. This is not an argument for expanded government, rather, it is simply a visual of the encompassing nature of the democratic concept. For modern society, democracy has been a penetrable wall of motion. It is a direct and constant investment in distant futures we will never see, but ones we know for certain are coming. And for that reason, let’s stay ready.

The @WalledEnd image was taken and titled by Lisa Saye.

Author: Dr. Lisa Saye served as Fulbright Specialist in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and as International Consultant for the United Nations Development Program in The Maldives. She also served as Chair of the Division of Social Sciences and Humanities and as Associate Professor of Public Administration at American University Afghanistan. Dr. Saye can be reached by email at [email protected].

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